Part 1 of 4: Islamic Accusations Concerning Biblical/Scriptural Contradictions Answered

Posted By Thomas Perez. June 2, 2011 at 10:02pm. Copyright 2011.

Introduction

In this study, I have provided 101 answers concerning these so-called apparent contradictions as written by Jay Smith, Alex Chowdhry, Toby Jepson, James Schaeffer, & citations by various resources of which can be found in Part 4. Moreover, I (Thomas Perez) have provided some additional information and an Appendix/Conclusion to this study in Part 4.

The Qur’an, itself, the highest authority for all Muslims, gives authority to the Bible. Consider the following Surah’s:

Sura Baqara 2:136 points out that there is no difference between the scriptures which preceded and those of the Qur’an, saying, “…the revelation given to us…and Jesus…we make no difference between one and another of them.” Surah Al-I-Imran 3:2-3 continues, “Allah…He sent down the Law (of Moses) and the Gospel (of Jesus)…as a guide to mankind.” Surah Nisaa 4:136 carries this farther by admonishing the Muslims to, “…Believe…and the scripture which He sent before him.”

In Sura Ma-ida 5:47,49,50,52 we find a direct call to Christians to believe in their scriptures: “…We sent Jesus, the son of Mary, confirming the Law that had come before him. We sent him the Gospel… Let the people of the Gospel judge by what Allah hath revealed therein, if any do fail to judge by the light of what Allah hath revealed, they are (no better than) those who rebel…” Again, in Surah Ma-ida 5:68 we find a similar call: “People of the Book!…Stand fast by the law, the Gospel, and all revelation that hath come to you from your Lord. It is the revelation that has come to thee from thy Lord.”

To embolden this idea of the New and Old Testament’s authority we find in Surah 10:94 that Muslims are advised to confer with these scriptures if in doubt about their own, saying: “If thou were in doubt as to what we have revealed unto thee, then ask those who have been reading the Book from before thee. The truth had indeed come to thee from thy Lord.” And as if to emphasize this point the advice is repeated in Surah 21:7, stating, “…the apostles We sent were but men, to whom We granted inspiration. If ye realize this not, Ask of those who possess the message.”

Finally, in Surah Ankabut 29:46 Muslims are asked not to question the authority of the scriptures of the Christians, saying, “And dispute ye not with the people of the book but say: We believe in the revelation which has come down to us and that which came down to you.”

If there is anything in these Surahs which is clear, it is that the Qur’an emphatically endorses the Torah and the Gospel as authentic and authoritative revelations from God. This coincides with what Christians believe, as well.

In fact, nowhere is there any warning in the Qur’an that the former scriptures had been corrupted, nor that they were contradictory. If the Qur’an was indeed the final and complete revelation, if it was the seal of all former revelations the Muslims claim, than certainly the author of the Qur’an would have included a warning against that which had been corrupted in the earlier scriptures. But nowhere do we find even a hint that the Bible was contradictory, or indeed that it was corrupted.

There are some Muslims, however, who contend that according to Surah 2:140 the Jews and Christians had corrupted their scriptures. This aya says (referring to the Jews), “…who is more unjust than those who conceal the testimony they have from Allah…?” Yet, nowhere does this aya state that the Jews and Christians corrupted their scriptures. It merely mentions that certain Jews have concealed “the testimony they have from Allah.” In other words the testimony is still there (thus the reason the aforementioned surahs admonish Muslims to respect the former scriptures), though the adherents of that testimony have chosen to conceal it. If anything this aya is a ringing endorsement to the credibility of those former scriptures, as it assumes a testimony from Allah does exist amongst the Jewish community.

God does not change His Word

Furthermore, both the Christian scriptures and the Muslim Qur’an hold to the premise that God does not change His word. He does not change His revelation (despite the law of abrogation found in the Qur’an). Surah Yunus 10:64 says, “No change can there be in the words of Allah.” This is repeated in Surah Al An’am 6:34: “There is none that can alter the words of Allah,” found also in Sura Qaf 50:28,29.

In the Bible we, likewise, have a number of references which speak of the unchangeableness of God’s word; such as, Deuteronomy 4:1-2; Isaiah 8:20; Matthew 5:17-18; 24:35; and Revelation 22:18-20. If this is the recurring theme in both the Bible and the Qur’an, it is hardly likely that we would find a scripture with such a multiplicity of contradictions which Muslims claim are found in the Bible. What then should we do with the contradictions which the Muslims claim are there?

The following 101 so-called contradictions are found in the Islamic website entitled, Answering-Christianity.com

It should also be understood that (the site is basically defunct at least since 1998, Qais Ali, the original content author of this site(Answering Christianity.org, is no longer a Muslim today) Answering Christianity – Shawn Smith; site defunct as well, no clue what happened with the Author.

1. Who incited David to count the fighting men of Israel?

God did (2 Samuel 24: 1)

Satan did (I Chronicles 2 1:1)

Answer: This seems an apparent discrepancy unless of course both statements are true. It was towards the end of David’s reign, and David was looking back over his brilliant conquests, which had brought the Canaanite, Syrian, and Phoenician kingdoms into a state of vassalage and dependency on Israel. He had an attitude of pride and self-admiration for his achievements, and was thinking more in terms of armaments and troops than in terms of the mercies of God.

The Lord therefore decided that it was time that David be brought to his knees, where he would once again be cast back onto the mercy of God. So he let him go ahead with his census, in order to find out just how much good it would do him, as the only thing this census would accomplish would be to inflate the national ego (intimated in Joab’s warning against carrying out the census in 1 Chronicles 21:3). As soon as the numbering was completed, God intended to chasten the nation with a disastrous plague which would bring about an enormous loss of life (in fact the lives of 70,000 Israelites according to 2 Samuel 24:15).

What about Satan? Why would he get himself involved in this affair (according to 1 Chronicles 21:1) if God had already prompted David to commit the folly he had in mind? It seems his reasons were entirely malicious, knowing that a census would displease the Lord (1 Chronicles 21:7-8), and so he also incited David to carry it through. Yet this is nothing new, for there are a number of other occurrences in the Bible where both the Lord and Satan were involved in soul-searching testings and trials:

In the book of Job, chapters one and two we find a challenge to Satan from God allowing Satan to bring upon Job his calamities. God’s purpose was to purify Job’s faith, and to strengthen his character by means of discipline through adversity, whereas Satan’s purpose was purely malicious, wishing Job as much harm as possible so that he would recant his faith in his God.

Similarly both God and Satan are involved in the sufferings of persecuted Christians according to 1 Peter 4:19 and 5:8. God’s purpose is to strengthen their faith and to enable them to share in the sufferings of Christ in this life, that they may rejoice with Him in the glories of heaven to come (1 Peter 4:13-14), whereas Satan’s purpose is to ‘devour’ them (1 Peter 5:8), or rather to draw them into self-pity and bitterness, and down to his level.

Both God and Satan allowed Jesus the three temptations during his ministry on earth. God’s purpose for these temptations was for him to triumph completely over the very tempter who had lured the first Adam to his fall, whereas Satan’s purpose was to deflect the Saviour from his messianic mission.

In the case of Peter’s three denials of Jesus in the court of the high priest, it was Jesus himself who points out the purposes of both parties involvement when he says in Luke 22:31-32,

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

And finally the crucifixion itself bears out yet another example where both God and Satan are involved. Satan exposed his purpose when he had the heart of Judas filled with treachery and hate (John 13:27), causing him to betray Jesus. The Lord’s reasoning behind the crucifixion, however, was that Jesus, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world should give his life as a ransom for many, so that once again sinful man could relish in the relationship lost at the very beginning, in the garden of Eden, and thereby enter into a relationship which is now eternal.

Thus we have five other examples where both the Lord and Satan were involved together though with entirely different motives. Satan’s motive in all these examples, including the census by David was driven by malicious intent, while the Lord in all these cases showed an entirely different motive. His was a benevolent motive with a view to eventual victory, while simultaneously increasing the usefulness of the person tested. In every case Satan’s success was limited and transient; while in the end God’s purpose was well served furthering His cause substantially.

(Archer 1982:186-188)

2. In that count how many fighting men were found in Israel?

Eight hundred thousand (2 Samuel 24:9)

One million, one hundred thousand (I Chronicles 21:5)

Answer: one census includes categories of men that the other excludes. It is quite conceivable that the 1 Chronicles 21:5 figure included all the available men of fighting age, whether battle-seasoned or not, whereas the 2 Samuel 24:9 account is speaking only of those who were ready for battle. Joab’s report in 2 Samuel 24 uses the word ‘is hayil, which is translated as “mighty men”, or battle-seasoned troops, and refers to them numbering 800,000 veterans. It is reasonable that there were an additional 300,000 men of military age kept in the reserves, but not yet involved in field combat. The two groups would therefore make up the 1,100,000 men in the 1 Chronicles 21 account which does not employ the Hebrew term ‘is hayil to describe them.

3. How many fighting men were found in Judah?

Five hundred thousand (2 Samuel 24:9)

Four hundred and seventy thousand (I Chronicles 21:5)

Answer: Observe that 1 Chronicles 21:6 clearly states that Joab did not complete the numbering, as he had not yet taken a census of the tribe of Benjamin, nor that of Levi’s either, due to the fact that David came under conviction about completing the census at all. Thus the different numbers indicate the inclusion or exclusion of particular unspecified groups in the nation. We find another reference to this in 1 Chronicles 27:23-24 where it states that David did not include those twenty years old and younger, and that since Joab did not finish the census the number was not recorded in King David’s Chronicle.

Observe that after the division of the United Kingdom into the North and the South following the death of Solomon in 930 BC, most of the Benjamites remained loyal to the dynasty of David and constituted (along with Simeon to the south) the kingdom of Judah. Hence it was reasonable to include Benjamin with Judah and Simeon in the sub-total figure of 500,000, even though Joab may not have itemized it in the first report he gave to David (1 Chronicles 21:5). Therefore the completed grand total of fighting forces available to David for military service was 1,600,000 (1,100,000 of Israel, 470,000 of Judah-Simeon, and 30,000 of Benjamin).

4. God sent his prophet to threaten David with how many years of famine?

Seven (2 Samuel 24:13)

Three (I Chronicles 21:12)

Answer: When you compare the two passages you will note that the wording is significantly different in 1 Chronicles 21 from that found in a 2 Samuel 24. In 2 Samuel 24:13 the question is “shell seven years of famine come to you?” In 1 Chronicles 21:12 we find an alternative imperative, “take for yourself either three years of famine…” From this we may reasonably conclude that 2 Samuel records the first approach of the prophet Gad to David, in which the alternative prospect was seven years; whereas the Chronicles account gives us the second and final approach of Nathan to the King, in which the Lord (doubtless in response to David’s earnest entreaty in private prayer) reduced the severity of that grim alternative to three years rather than an entire span of seven. As it turned out, however, David opted for God’s third preference, and thereby received three days of severe pestilence, resulting in the deaths of 70,000 men in Israel.

5. How old was Ahaziah when he began to rule over Jerusalem?

Twenty-two (2 Kings 8:26)

Forty-two (2 Chronicles 22:2)

Answer: Fortunately there is enough additional information in the Biblical text to show that the correct number is 22. Earlier in 2 Kings 8:17 the author mentions that Ahaziah’s father Joram ben Ahab was 32 when he became King, and he died eight years later, at the age of 40. Therefore Ahaziah could not have been 42 at the time of his father’s death at age 40! Such scribal errors do not change Jewish or Christian beliefs in the least. In such a case, another portion of scripture often corrects the mistake (2 Kings 8:26 in this instance). We must also remember that the scribes who were responsible for the copies were meticulously honest in handling Biblical texts. They delivered them as they received them, without changing even obvious mistakes, which are few indeed.

6. How old was Jehoiachin when he became king of Jerusalem?

Eighteen (2 Kings 24:8)

Eight (2 Chronicles 36:9)

Answer: As with many of these numerical discrepancies, it is the decade number that varies. It is instructive to observe that the number notations used by the Jewish settlers in the 5th century BC Elephantine Papyri, during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, from which this passage comes, evidences the earlier form of numerical notation. This consisted of a horizontal stroke ending in a downward hook at its right end to represent the numbers in tens (thus two horizontal strokes one above the other would be 20). Vertical strokes were used to represent anything less than ten. Thus eight would be /III IIII, but eighteen would be /III IIII with the addition of a horizontal line and downward hook above it. Similarly twenty-two would be /I followed by two horizontal hooks, and forty-two would be /I followed by two sets of horizontal hooks (please forgive the deficiencies of my computer.

If, then, the primary manuscript from which a copy was being carried out was blurred or smudged, one or more of the decadal notations could be missed by the copyist. It is far less likely that the copyist would have mistakenly seen an extra ten stroke that was not present in his original then that he would have failed to observe one that had been smudged.

In the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible, the corrections have been included in the texts. However, for clarity, footnotes at the bottom of the page mention that earlier Hebrew MSS include the scribal error, while the Septuagint MSS and Syriac as well as one Hebrew MSS include the correct numerals. It only makes sense to correct the numerals once the scribal error has been noted. This, however, in no way negates the authenticity nor the authority of the scriptures which we have.

Confirmation of this type of copyist error is found in various pagan writers as well. For example in the Behistun rock inscription set up by Darius 1, we find that number 38 gives the figure for the slain of the army of Frada as 55,243, with 6,572 prisoners, according to the Babylonian column. Copies of this inscription found in Babylon itself, records the number of prisoners as 6,973. However in the Aramaic translation of this inscription discovered at the Elephantine in Egypt, the number of prisoners was only 6,972.

Similarly in number 31 of the same inscription, the Babylonian column gives 2,045 as the number of slain in the rebellious army of Frawartish, along with 1,558 prisoners, whereas the Aramaic copy has over 1,575 as the prisoner count.

7. How long did Jehoiachin rule over Jerusalem?

Three months (2 Kings 24:8)

Three months and ten days (2 Chronicles 36:9)

Answer: Here again, as we found in challenge number 2 and 4, the author of the Chronicles has been more specific with his numbering, whereas the author of Kings is simply rounding off the number of months, assuming that the additional ten days is not significant enough to mention.

8. The chief of the mighty men of David lifted up his spear and killed how many men at one time?

Eight hundred (2 Samuel 23:8)

Three hundred (I Chronicles 11: 11)

Answer: It is quite possible that both authors may have described two different incidents, though by the same man, or one author may have only mentioned in part what the other author mentions in full. (Light of Life II 1992:187)

9. When did David bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem? Before defeating the Philistines or after?

After (2 Samuel 5 and 6)

Before (I Chronicles 13 and 14)

Answer: This is not really a problem. They should have continued reading on further to 1 Chronicles 15, as he would then have seen that David brought the Ark after defeating the Philistines. The reason for this is that the Israelites moved the Ark of the covenant twice. The first time, they moved it from Baal, prior to the defeat of the Philistines, as we see in 2 Samuel 5 and 6 and in 1 Chronicles 15. Once the prophet Samuel narrates David’s victory over the Philistines, he tells us about both times when the Ark was moved. However in 1 Chronicles, the order is as follows: the Ark was first moved from baal; then David defeated the Philistines; and finally, the Ark was moved from the House of Obed-Edom.

Therefore the two accounts are not contradictory at all. What we have here is simply one prophet choosing to give us the complete history of the Ark at once (rather than referring to it later) and another presenting the history in a different way. In both cases the timing of events is the same.

The same could be said of the Qur’an. In Sura 2 we are introduced to the fall of Adam, then God’s mercy is shown to the Israelites, followed by Pharaoh’s drowning, followed by Moses and the Golden calf, followed by the Israelites complaint about food and water, and then we are introduced to the account of the golden calf again. Following this, we read about Moses and Jesus, then we read about Moses and the golden calf, and then about Solomon and Abraham. If one wants to talk about chronology, what does Moses have to do with Jesus, or Solomon with Abraham? Chronologically the sura should have begun with Adam’s fall, then moved to Cain and Abel, Enoch, Abraham, Lot, Isaac, Jacob and Esau, Joseph, the sons of Israel and Moses, in that order. If such a blatant chronological mix-up can be found in this sura of the Qur’an, then they would do well to explain it before criticizing what they deem to be an error in the Bible. (Light of Life II 1992:176)

10. How many pairs of clean animals did God tell Noah to take into the Ark?

Two (Genesis 6:19, 20)

Seven (Genesis 7:2). But despite this last instruction only two pairs went into the ark (Genesis 7:8-9)

Answer: The reason for including seven of the clean species is perfectly evident: they were to be used for sacrificial worship after the flood had receded (as indeed they were, according to Genesis 8:20). Obviously if there had not been more than two of each of these clean species, they would have been rendered extinct by their being sacrificed on the altar. But in the case of the unclean animals and birds, a single pair would suffice, since they would not be needed for blood sacrifice.

11. When David defeated the King of Zobah, how many horsemen did he capture?

One thousand and seven hundred (2 Samuel 8:4)

Seven thousand (I Chronicles 18:4)

Answer: There are two possible solutions to these differing figures. The first by Keil and Delitzsh (page 360) is a most convincing solution. They maintain that the word for chariotry (rekeb) was inadvertently omitted by the scribe in copying 2 Samuel 8:4, and that the second figure, 7,000 (for the parasim “cavalrymen”), was necessarily reduced to 700 from the 7,000 he saw in his Vorlage for the simple reason that no one would write 7,000 after he had written 1,000 in the recording the one and the same figure. The omission of rekeb might have occurred with an earlier scribe, and a reduction from 7,000 to 700 would have then continued with the successive copies by later scribes. But in all probability the Chronicles figure is right and the Samuel numbers should be corrected to agree with that.

A second solution starts from the premise that the number had been reduced to 700 as it refers to 700 rows, each consisting of 10 horse men, making a total of 7,000.

(Archer 1982:184: Keil & Delitzsch 1949:360; Light of Life II 1992:182)

12. How many stalls for horses did Solomon have?

Forty thousand (I Kings 4:26)

Four thousand (2 chronicles 9:25)

Answer: There are a number of ways to answer these puzzling differences. The most plausible is analogous to what we found earlier in challenge numbers five and six above, where the decadal number has been rubbed out or distorted due to constant use. Others believe that the stalls mentioned in 2 Chronicles were large ones that housed 10 horses each (that is, a row of ten stalls). Therefore 4,000 of these large stalls would be equivalent to 40,000 small ones.

Another commentator maintains that the number of stalls recorded in 1 Kings was the number at the beginning of Solomon’s reign, whereas the number recorded in 2 Chronicles was the number of stalls at the end of his reign. We know that Solomon reigned for 40 years; no doubt, many changes occurred during this period. It is quite likely that he reduced the size of the military machine his father David had left him. (Light of Life II 1992:191)

13. In what year of King Asa’s reign did Baasha, King of Israel die?

Twenty-sixth year (I Kings 15:33 – 16:8)

Still alive in the thirty-sixth year (2 Chronicles 16:1)

Answer: There are two possible solutions to this problem. To begin with, scholars who have looked at these passages have concluded that the 36th year of Asa should be calculated from the withdrawal of the 10 tribes from Judah and Benjamin which brought about the division of the country into Judah and Israel. If we look at it from this perspective, the 36th year of the divided monarchy would be in the 16th year of Asa. This is supported by the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel, as well as contemporary records, which follow this convention. (note: for a fuller explanation of this theory, see Archer, page 225-116).

Keil and Delitzsch (pp. 366-367) preferred to regard the number 36 in 2 Chronicles 16:1 and the number 35 in 15:19 as a copyist’s error for 16 and 15, respectively. This problem is similar to question numbers five and six above. In this case, however, the numbers were written using Hebrew alphabetical type (rather than the Egyptian multiple stroke type used in the Elephantine Papyri, referred to in questions 5 and 6). It is therefore quite possible that the number 16 could quite easily be confused with 36. The reason for this is that up through the seventh century BC the letter yod (10) greatly resembled the letter lamed (30), except for two tiny strokes attached to the left of the main vertical strokes. It required only a smudge from excessive wear on this scroll-column to result in making the yod look like a lamed. It is possible that this error occurred first in the earlier passage, in 2 Chronicles 15:19 (with its 35 wrongly copied from an original 15); then to make it consistent in 16:1, the same scribe (or perhaps a later one) concluded that 16 must be an error for 36 and changed it accordingly on his copy.

(Archer 1982:226: Keil & Delitzsch 1949:366-367; Light of Life II 1992:194)

14. How many overseers did Solomon appoint for the work of building the temple?

Three thousand six hundred (2 Chronicles 2:2)

Three thousand three hundred (I Kings 5:16)

Answer: This is not a problem. The most likely solution is that the author of 2 Chronicles included the 300 men who were selected as reservists to take the place of any supervisors who would become ill or who had died, while the author of the 1 Kings 5:16 passage includes only the supervisory force. With the group as large as the 3,300, sickness and death certainly did occur, requiring reserves who would be called up as the need arose.

15. Solomon built a facility containing how many baths?

Two thousand (1 Kings 7:26)

Over three thousand (2 Chronicles 4:5)

Answer: The Hebrew verb rendered “contained” and “held” is different from that translated “received”; and the meaning may be that the sea ordinarily contained 2,000 baths. But when filled to its utmost capacity it received and held 3,000 baths. Thus the chronicler simply mentions the amount of water that would make the sea like a flowing spring rather than a still pool. This informs us that 3,000 gallons of water were required to completely fill the sea which usually held 2,000 gallons.

Another solution follows a theme mentioned earlier, that the number in Hebrew lettering for 2000 has been confounded by the scribe with a similar alphabetical number for the number 3,000.

It should be noted that they quoted this “contradiction” and added to it saying that if the bath had a diameter of 10 cubits it cannot possibly have had a circumference of 30 cubits as the text says (since ‘pi’ dictates that it would have a circumference of 31.416 or a 9.549 diameter).

They made the humorous comment “Find me a bath like that and I will get baptized in it!” But they did not read the text properly or was just going for a cheap, displaced laugh. Why? Because the text says that it was about 8cm thick and had a rim shaped like a lily. Therefore it depends on where you measure from. The top or bottom of the rim or the inside or outside for the vessel would all give a different diameter; and depending on whether you measure at the top of the rim or at the narrower point, you would get a different circumference.

In other words, they may well be getting baptized if someone can be bothered to make a replica!

(Haley pg. 382; Light of Life II 1992:192)

16. Of the Israelites who were freed from the Babylonian captivity, how many were the children of Pahrath-Moab?

Two thousand eight hundred and twelve (Ezra 2:6)

Two thousand eight hundred and eighteen (Nehemiah 7:11)

Answer: (note: 16-21 deals with the same census, I have included them as one)

In chapter 2 of Ezra and in chapter 7 of Nehemiah there are about thirty-three family units that appear in both lists of Israelites returning from Babylon to Judea. Of these 33 family units listed in Ezra and Nehemiah, nineteen of the family units are identical, while fourteen show discrepancies in the number of members within the family units. Two of the discrepancies differ by 1, one differs by 4, two by 6, two differ by 9, another differs by 11, another two by 100, another by 201, another differs by 105, a further family differs by 300, and the largest difference is the figure for the sons of Azgad, a difference of 1,100 between the accounts of Ezra 2 and Nehemiah 7.

How, then, are we to account for the 14 discrepancies? The answer is quite simple, and they, had they done any study into the history of these two accounts would never have bothered to waste his time in asking these questions. The fact that there are both similarities and discrepancies side-by-side should have pointed him to the solution as well (as you who are reading this are probably even now concluding).

There are two important factors to bear in mind when looking at these discrepancies between the two lists. The first is the probability that though members of the units or families had enrolled their names at first as intending to go; in the interval of preparation, some possibly died, others were prevented by sickness or other insurmountable obstacles, so that the final number who actually went was not the same as those who had intended to go. Anyone who has planned a school-coach trip to the beach can understand how typical a scenario this really is.

A second and more important factor are the different circumstances in which the two registers were taken, an important fact of which they seem to be acutely unaware. Ezra’s register was made up while still in Babylon (in the 450s BC), before the return to Jerusalem (Ezra 2:1-2), whereas Nehemiah’s register was drawn up in Judea (around 445 BC), after the walls of Jerusalem had been rebuilt (Nehemiah 7:4-6). The lapse of so many years between the two lists (between 5-10 years) would certainly make a difference in the numbers of each family through death or by other causes.

Most scholars believe that Nehemiah recorded those people who actually arrived at Jerusalem under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Jeshua in 537 or 536 BC (Nehemiah 7:7). Ezra, on the other hand, uses the earlier list of those who originally announced their intention to join the caravan of returning colonists back in Babylon, in the 450s BC.

The discrepancies between these two lists point to the fact that there were new factors which arose to change their minds. Some may have fallen into disagreement, others may have discovered business reasons to delay their departure until later, whereas in some cases there were certainly some illnesses or death, and in other cases there may have been some last-minute recruits from those who first decided to remain in Babylon. Only clans or city-group’s came in with a shrunken numbers. All the rest picked up last-minute recruits varying from one to 1,100.

When we look at the names we find that certain names are mentioned in alternate forms. Among the Jews of that time (as well as those living in the East), a person had a name, title, and surname. Thus, the children of Hariph (Nehemiah 7:24) are the children of Jorah (Ezra 2:18), while the children of Sia (Nehemiah 7:47) are also the children of Siaha (Ezra 2:44).

When we take all these factors into consideration, the differences in totals that do appear in these two tallies should occasion no surprise whatsoever. The same sort of arbitration and attrition has featured every large migration in human history.

(Archer 1982:229-230 and Light of Life II 1992:219-220)

17. How many were the children of Zattu?

Nine hundred and forty-five (Ezra 2:8)

Eight hundred and forty-five (Nehemiah 7:13)

18. How many were the children of Azgad?

One thousand two hundred and twenty-two (Ezra 2:12)

Two thousand three hundred and twenty-two (Nehemiah 7:17)

19. How many were the children of Adin?

Four hundred and fifty-four (Ezra 2:15)

Six hundred and fifty-five (Nehemiah 7:20)

20. How many were the children of Hashum?

Two hundred and twenty-three (Ezra 2:19)

Three hundred and twenty-eight (Nehemiah 7:22)

21. How many were the children of Bethel and Ai?

Two hundred and twenty-three (Ezra 2:28)

One hundred and twenty-three (Nehemiah 7:32)

22. Ezra 2:64 and Nehemiah 7:66 agree that the total number of the whole assembly was 42,360. Yet the numbers do not add up to anything close. The totals obtained from each book is as follows:

29,818 (Ezra)

31,089 (Nehemiah)

Answer: There are possibly two answers to this seeming dilemma. The first is that this is most likely a copyist’s error. The original texts must have had the correct totals, but somewhere along the line of transmission, a scribe made an error in one of the lists, and changed the total in the other so that they would match, without first totaling up the numbers for the families in each list. There is the suggestion that a later scribe upon copying out these lists purposely put down the totals for the whole assembly who were in Jerusalem at his time, which because it was later would have been larger.

The other possibility is forwarded by the learned Old Testament scholar R.K. Harrison, who suggests that at any rate the figure of 42,000 may be metaphorical, following “…the pattern of the Exodus and similar traditions, where the large numbers were employed as symbols of the magnitude of God, and in this particular instance indicating the triumphant deliverance that God achieved for His captive people” (Harrison 1970:1142-1143).

Such errors do not change the historicity of the account, since in such cases another portion of Scripture usually corrects the mistake (the added totals in this instance). As the well-known commentator, Matthew Henry once wrote, “Few books are not printed without mistakes; yet, authors do not disown them on account of this, nor are the errors by the press imputed to the author. The candid reader amends them by the context or by comparing them with some other part of the work.”

23. How many singers accompanied the assembly?

Two hundred (Ezra 2:65)

Two hundred and forty-five (Nehemiah 7:67)

Answer: As in question number 7, this is a copyist error, where a scribe copying the numbers in the Ezra account simply rounded off the figure of 245 to 200.

24. What was the name of King Abijahs mother?

Michaiah, daughter of Uriel of Gibeah (2 Chronicles 13:2)

Maachah, daughter of Absalom (2 Chronicles 11:20) But Absalom had only one daughter whose name was Tamar (2 Samuel 14:27)

Answer: This apparent contradiction rests on the understanding of the Hebrew word bat, equivalent to the English daughter. Although usually used to denote a first generation female descendant, it can equally refer to more distant kinship. An example of this is 2 Samuel 1:24, which states: ‘O daughters of Israel, weep for Saul…’ As this is approximately 900 years after Israel (also called Jacob) actually lived, it is clear that this refers to the Israelite women, his distant female descendants.

When seen in this light, the ‘contradiction’ vanishes. 2 Chronicles 13:2 correctly states that Michaiah is a daughter of Uriel. We can assume that Uriel married Tamar, Absalom’s only immediate daughter. Together they had Michaiah who then married king Rehoboam and became the mother of Abijah. 2 Chronicles 11:20 and 1 Kings 15:2, in stating that Maachah was a daughter of Absalom, simply link her back to her more famous grandfather, instead of her lesser known father, to indicate her royal lineage. Abishalom is a variant of Absalom and Michaiah is a variant of Maachah.

25. Did Joshua and the Israelites capture Jerusalem?

Yes (Joshua 10:23, 40)

No (Joshua 15:63)

Answer: The short answer is, not in this campaign. The verses given are in complete harmony and the confusion arises solely from misreading the passage concerned.

In Joshua 10, it is the king of Jerusalem that is killed: his city is not captured (verses 16-18 and 22-26). The five Amorite kings and their armies left their cities and went to attack Gibeon. Joshua and the Israelites routed them and the five kings fled to the cave at Makkedah, from which Joshua’s soldiers brought them to Joshua, who killed them all. Concerning their armies, verse 20 states: ‘the few who were left reached their fortified cities’, which clearly indicates that the cities were not captured. So it was the kings, not their cities, who were captured.

Joshua 10:28-42 records the rest of this particular military campaign. It states that several cities were captured and destroyed, these being: Makkedah, Libnah, Lachish, Eglon, Hebron and Debir. All of these cities are south-west of Jerusalem. The king of Gezer and his army were defeated in the field whilst helping Lachish (v.33) and in verse 30 comparison is made to the earlier capture of Jericho, but neither of these last two cities were captured at this time. Verses 40 & 41 delineate the limits of this campaign, all of which took place to the south and west of Jerusalem. Importantly, Gibeon, the eastern limit of this campaign, is still approximately 10 miles to the north-west of Jerusalem.

Jerusalem is, therefore, not stated as captured in Joshua 10. This agrees completely with Joshua 15:63, which states that Judah could not dislodge the Jebusites in Jerusalem.

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